by Syed Sharfuddin
[Photo Courtesy Shariq Arif]
A Commentary on Muslim Dua
The Arabic word Dua is understood by Muslims in many ways. It means supplication; appealing for the mercy of the one and only Lord; calling Allah for help in time of distress; communicating with God secretly without any intermediary; making a prayer that combines the glorification of Allah and seeks His intervention for sustenance in this life and salvation in the hereafter; conversation with the Almighty God; and wishing well for someone else.
What is Dua
Dua is a bridge between man and his Creator, a medium through which man, living on earth tries to use to reach the Creator, living in the heaven. The Good and Glorious Allah permits human beings to call Him directly and He also gives assurance that He will respond to them when they call Him (40:60).
Meaning of Dua
The word Dua has also used with different meanings in the holy Quran. It has been used to mean as a mere voice which has no impact (2:171); as an invocation that is not answered by Allah in some specific circumstances (13:14), (21:15), (27:80), (40:50), (46:5) & (96:17); as an expression of thanks (14:39); as supplication to make a direct request to God (14:40) & (3:38); praying for the good and desired objects (17:11), (19:4) & (19:48); invitation or call to follow the right path (3:193), (21:45), (30:52), (35:14), (40:12) & (71:6); summoning one another in a group (26:43); to turn toward Allah for answers (24:48), (24;51), (25:77) & (40:60); and beseeching Allah to remove affliction (41:51).
How to make Dua
There are examples in the Quran and in the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad peace and blessings of Allah be on him how Dua should be conducted. These examples are found in the Duas of prophets, including the Duas of prophet Muhammad peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. The verses dealing with the supplications the messengers of Allah made and the things they asked reveal the methodology of how Dua should be made and for what purpose.
Acceptance of Dua
We learn from the stories of prophets in the Quran that not every Dua reaches the level of acceptance. This is because human beings do not have the knowledge of the greater scheme of things in the universe that only Allah knows and plans. In Chapter 40 Verse 60 Allah says: “Man prays to seek evil as [eagerly as] he prays to seek good. Verily man is ever hasty”.
Duas can be instantly granted such as the Dua of Adam and Zachariah or can take a long time to come to fruition such as the Dua of Job. If a Dua is not granted in this world, then it is likely that it will be stored in the account of the worshipper and used on the Day of Judgement as a credit for balancing the book of deeds, or used for an upgrade to a higher level of reward in paradise.
Duas of Prophets
The Duas of other prophets such as Adam, Zachariah, Jonah and Moses were readily accepted by Allah. In the case of Solomon, Allah accepted his Dua for giving him a kingdom which will never be rivalled by any in the world. However, Solomon’s Dua for a good heir to succeed him was not accepted. The Duas of Job and David were accepted but were subject to a long waiting period.
Some examples of the Duas of prophets are the Dua of Jethro “Lord, judge between us and our people in truth, for you are the best of those who give judgement” (7:89); the Dua of Saul (Taloot) “Lord give me victory over the people who are mischief mongers” (29:30); the Dua of Joseph “Lord you are my protector in this world and in the hereafter; make me to die as one who has totally submitted himself to your Will and join me with the righteous” (12:101); the Dua of Abraham “Lord in you alone we put our trust, to you alone we turn in repentance and to you alone is our final return” (60:4) and the Dua of Moses “Lord I am in absolute need of the good You send me (28:24).
Duas of pious women
The Quran mentions the Duas of Pharaoh’s wife Asiyah “my Lord build for me a home with you in Jannah (66:11) and the Dua of holy Mary “I will abandon you and the gods you worship besides Allah; I will worship only my Lord; by imploring my Lord alone, I can never go astray” (19:48).
Duas that are never accepted
Some Duas are never accepted either in this world nor accounted for in the hereafter. These are Duas where Allah is associated with other idols or partners, and where someone repents after the hour of death has approached with the arrival of the angel of death. “And whoever invokes another god with Allah, whereof he has no proof, then surely his reckoning will only be in the Reckoning of his Lord; surely the disbelievers will not succeed.” [23:117]. “And those they invoke besides Him do not possess [power of] intercession; but only those who testify to the truth [can benefit], and they know.” [43:86].
Allah says in Chapter 46 Verse 5 “And who is more astray than he who invokes besides Allah those who will not respond to him until the day of Resurrection, and they, of their invocation, are unaware.” In Chapter 32 Verses 11, 12 & 14 Allah says: “The angel of death will take you who has been entrusted with you. Then to your Lord you will be returned. If you could but see when the criminals are hanging their heads before their Lord, [saying], ‘Our Lord, we have seen and heard, so return us [to the world]; we will work righteousness. Indeed, we are [now] certain.’ So taste [punishment] because you forgot the meeting of this Day; indeed, We have [accordingly] forgotten you. And taste the punishment of eternity for what you used to do (when you were alive).”
We learn from the Quran that the Dua of Abraham for his father Azer was not accepted. Likewise, the Dua of Noah in favour of his son was not accepted. Prophet Lut could not save his wife because she was the supporter of transgressors. “And address Me not in favour of those who have done wrong. Verily, they are to be drowned.” [23:27].
Dua is different from Salat (prayer)
In the context of the present discussion, Dua is different from established prayer which is called Salat in the holy Quran. There are specific timings and occasions when Salat prayers are performed. Salat prayers are both obligatory and optional. Dua is not obligatory and is mostly optional although Allah says in Chapter 25 Verse 77 “Allah will not attach any value to you were it not for your Duas to him”.
While there are differing opinions among scholars on whether Dua should to be made within salat or should be asked after salat as part of remembrance of Allah (Zikr), the practice is widespread for both. Some people follow the tradition of making Dua after offering the obligatory salat, others combine Duas within the salat such as making Dua after Surah Fateha has been read, while in sujood or juloos when sitting in Attahiyat after sajda.
A major path of Salat comprises Dua because every rakat starts with the recitation of Surah Fatiha which is a complete Dua in its own right. A Christian scholar Chawkat Moucarry in his book “Two Prayers for Today: The Lord’s Prayer and the Fatiha” (2007) has compared Surah Al-Fateha with the Lord’s Prayer in the Bible. A special Dua, Called Dua Qunoot is recited after the last obligatory prayer of the night (Isha) in the odd rakats of Vitr. It is also a comprehensive Dua and sometimes is supplemented by a longer Dua called Qunoot-e-Nazila.
For details one is invited to benefit from the works of renowned Muhaddesin (narrators of Hadith) namely, Al-Tirmidhi, Al-Nasaai, Sahih Muslim, Abu Dawood, Ibn-Al-Qaiyim Al Jawzi, Abd Al-Azeez Ibn Baz, Al-Nawawei, Ibn Taymiyah and Al-Daani. Their books in Arabic are easily available in libraries and Islamic resource centres. Translations of some of these works are also available in major languages.
Time and place for Dua
Dua has no fixed place or timing. A believer can always establish contact with Allah whenever and wherever he wants to connect to his Creator. However, from confirmed Ahadith, i.e. sayings of prophet Muhammad peace and blessings of Allah be on him, there are certain special times, places and relationships where Dua is highly effective and most likely to be accepted.
These times are: Dua of a fasting Muslim after he/she has broken his fast; the period between the Azan when prayers are called and Aqama when prayers actually stand in a congregation, the time after obligatory prayers have been offered and other specific occasions such as the Night of Power, Days of Haj, the Tawaf of the holy Kaaba and Saee between Mounts Safa and Marwa, and the Days of Eid.
Dua is also accepted around certain times of the day and night when Allah is exalted. Dua made during worship (Tahajjud salat) in the late hours of the night before dawn when everyone is asleep is believed to be the most acceptable Dua. “Call upon your Lord in humility and privately; indeed, He does not like transgressors.” [Surah Al-Araaf 7:55]. Allah Subhanuhu wa Taala is glorified in the universe constantly at all times. “Exalted is Allah when you reach the evening and when you reach the morning”. [Surah Al-Rum 30:17]. “And to Him is all praise throughout the heavens and the earth. And (exalted is He) at night and when you are at noon.” [Surah Al-Rum 30:18].
For the places it is mentioned that places which are regarded as the signs of Allah (shaair Allah) Dua is accepted. These include the Kaaba, Multazim, Hateem, Muqam Ibrahim, Mounts Safa and Marwa, Riad-al-Jannah in Madinah and generally the three holiest Mosques in Islam which have been the places of visitation by other prophets and messengers in ancient times.
For the personal relationships it is believed that the Dua of parents for children, or children for their parents; the Dua of a husband for his wife, the Dua of a just ruler for his people, the Dua of a pious person, the Dua of an oppressed person and the Dua of a traveller are more potent and powerful compared to the Dua of others. According to Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah the Dua of three persons is never rejected: the Dua of a father for his children, the Dua of a traveller and the Dua of the oppressed.
Pre-requisites for Dua
The etiquette of calling Allah in the state of Dua requires two fundamental conditions. The caller should fear Allah but he should also remain hopeful of mercy from Allah. In Chapter 7 Verse 56 Allah says: “And call unto Him with fear and longing. Allah’s grace is ever near to those who do good”. In Chapter 32 Verse 16, Allah says: “Those who stay away from their beds at night to remember Allah call Him in fear and hope”.
The state of fear and hope constitute the twin pillars of faith. All the prophets who were sent to guide mankind on the right path came with the dual role of being the bearer of good news (bashir) and at the same time being the trumpeter of warning (nazir). “And We send not the messengers except as bringers of good tidings and warners.” [Surah Al-Kahf 18:56]. However, Allah’s forgiveness and mercy are far more in abundance than His wrath or punishment.
According to Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah, on the authority of Anas who said he heard Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him said that Allah the Almighty says: ‘O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you. O son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth and were you then to face Me, ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great at it.’
Individual and collective Dua
Dua can be made individually or collectively as taught to us by the Quran. Adam and Eve when they realised the mistake of eating the forbidden fruit made collective Dua for their forgiveness which was accepted by Allah. “Lord we have wronged ourselves. If you forgive us not and bestow not upon us your mercy, we shall certainly be among the losers” (7:23). Congregational Duas are collective such as the Dua after Friday prayers, the longer Dua in Qayamul Lail after the recitation of the Holy Quran and the collective Dua made on the Day of Mount Arafat as part of the annual Haj Khutba.
Components of Dua
A Dua has three parts. In the first part is the glorification of Allah and an admission that He alone has the power to change things (62:1), (64:1), (3:36), (3:189), (5;120), (57:2) & (67:1). He is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. He listens and is aware of the true intention of the person making the Dua (3:29).
The second part of Dua is admission of the weakness of human frailty and the mistakes one has made in life and is truly embarrassed to stand before his Lord in shame and humiliation. Without confession, repentance is incomplete. However, when the confession and guilt is expressed sincerely Allah not only forgives the believer but also credits as much good in his account as was his debit prior to repentance (40:3), (66:8). “Except for those who repent, believe and do righteous work. For them Allah will replace their evil deeds with good. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful” [Surah Al-Furqan 25:70].
In the third and final part Dua is focused on the believer seeking forgiveness for the sins, deliverance from Hellfire and help from Allah for himself, his family, community and nation to make things easy in this mortal life and grant the strength to face life’s challenges, overcome hardship and build a character to become a good Muslim and a good human being in this world and become the inheritor of Paradise in the next life (2:286).
The best Duas are contained in the holy Quran in the form of Duas of prophets and in the Sunnah of prophet Muhammad peace and blessings of Allah be on him.
Language of Dua
It is preferable to recite the Duas of the Quran and the holy Prophet in original Arabic because these are concise and contain the exact words used by the prophets in calling Allah. However, Duas can also be made in the mother tongue of the worshipper because these come directly from his/her heart and their sense is not lost in translation, especially if they are not familiar with the Arabic language.